MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA — The Inner Mounting Flame (review)

MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA — The Inner Mounting Flame album cover Album · 1971 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Warthur
One of the first of what I think of as the "second wave" of fusion bands - those designed from the ground up to be fusion acts, rather than evolving into a fusion style like Miles Davis's band or the Mothers of Invention did in the 1960s - the Mahavishnu Orchestra are probably best known for this classic album, on which for most of the time they play a fast, loud, and heavy brand of fusion. From the dark, foreboding eruption that commences the opening track to the end, this is a true triumph for every musician involved. John McLaughlin plays incredibly fast and complex lead guitar, showing both the craft he'd learned in fusion works by Miles Davis and Tony Williams and the influence of other artists working in the same vein - in parts, for example, I can hear a strong influence from Frank Zappa's celebrated guitar solos on Hot Rats. The rhythm section of Rick Laird and Billy Cobham do an admirable job of both keeping up and keeping their hand in the game, Cobham's drums in particular being a forceful and complex treat in their own right. Jan Hammer's keyboard textures and Jerry Goodman's violin complete the picture; a particularly good piece for them is A Lotus on Irish Streams, a rare moment of calm, reflection and beauty in the middle of the fury which is a showcase both for Hammer's piano lines (which at points recall more classic jazz styles) and Goodman's plaintive violin work.

A true cornerstone of the fusion scene, and a key work not just in the discography of group leader John McLaughlin but of every member of the band, The Inner Mounting Flame deserves nothing less than five stars - in fact, I'd say it earns each of those stars twice over.
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